Florence and The Madonna dell’ufo at Palazzo Vecchio 

Florence is worth any trip and being able to admire Palazzo Vecchio is one more reason: the ancient seat of Florentine power, symbol of the city for seven centuries, holds treasures of inestimable value and beauty, such as the Judith of Donatello, Bronzino’s paintings in the Chapel of Eleonora and Michelangelo’s Genius of Victory. In addition to the collections ranging from the Salone del Cinquecento to the Studiolo of Francesco I, without underestimating the remains of the ancient Roman theater or the charming Quartiere degli Elementi. 

Wandering through the halls of the palace is an experience that can take visitors back in time to experience the sensations and atmospheres that only great art can give them in an exclusive context. 

In Palazzo Vecchio a painting contains a mystery debated for centuries, which, over the years, has aroused the curiosity of many scholars and enthusiasts, go inside the Hall of Hercules to see closely the famous painting nicknamed “The Madonna dell’ufo”.


A flying saucer in a picture of the fifteenth century 

The work in question consists of a round, probably dating from the fifteenth century, depicting the Madonna and Child Jesus and the little Saint John. Its realization is uncertain, in fact if by some scholars it is attributed to a student of Filippo Lippi, others believe that the paternity may be of Sebastiano Mainardi, or of Jacopo del Sellaio or, again, of the Master of the Tondo Miller.  

If the attribution is uncertain, one aspect is clear to all: the subject represented is totally in line with the trends of the time, but also portrays a small detail quite bizarre. Looking carefully, precisely at the bottom right, right behind Our Lady, there is a shepherd in the company of his dog; the two, instead of looking after the flock as they should, are intent on scrutinizing the sky. 

Why? Following their gaze, we can clearly see the insertion of a very particular element: a gray object, with a circular shape, with small projections that resembles a moving spaceship. 

So this painting of the fifteenth century, depicting the Madonna and her child, would also immortalize a flying saucer that stands out in the skies. Stuff to make anyone crazy!


The name “Madonna dell’ufo” 

Due to the presence of this unidentified object, traceable to a spacecraft, the work has not only become famous throughout the world, but has also provided numerous ufologists with an alleged evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials.  

To complete the picture on the top left, there is the Star of the Nativity accompanied by three other small stars, a detail that refers to a similar insertion made by Botticelli in his Madonna del Libro.  

Most critics and scholars argue that the mysterious object would actually be the cloud that illuminated the birth of Christ, an element very common in other works, while the three stars would be the symbol of the triple virginity of Mary.  

Despite this, the painting is often identified with the name “Our Lady of the ufo”, a nickname that has transformed the room dedicated to the mythological hero in a real pilgrimage destination by ufologists and curious.


Palazzo Vecchio: the history 

The work “The Madonna dell’ufo” is located, as already mentioned, inside Palazzo Vecchio, which is located in Piazza della Signoria in Florence and is the current seat of the City. It represents the best expression of the civil architecture of the fourteenth century and is among the most famous and appreciated civic buildings in the world.  

At the point where Palazzo Vecchio stands, in the ancient Roman city of Florentia there was an ancient Roman theater, with a semicircular stalls overlooking Piazza della Signoria. During the early 2000s, excavations began that brought to light several underground rooms, rich in remains dating back to different periods.


The construction of the Palace, however, dates back to the second half of the thirteenth century, when the city decided to build one to ensure maximum protection to the magistrates in times rather turbulent. Its construction is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, the same architect who was responsible for the design of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Basilica of Santa Croce; the works began in 1299 drawing inspiration from the Palazzo dei Priori in Volterra.  

Once completed, the palace was called Palazzo dei Priori and incorporated the already existing Torre della Vacca to be used as the lower part of the tower of the facade (this explains why the rectangular tower is not located in the center of the building). 

On Arnolfo’s death, the works were completed by two other masters in 1314. The palace became the seat of the Signoria and the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia.  

The current appearance is due to successive constructions and extensions, dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; the sixteenth century hall was built in 1494 with the Republic of Savonarola, During the sixteenth century it was Cosimo de’ Medici who first commissioned Battista di Tasso and then Vasari to enlarge the palace to accommodate the large ducal court.     

The palace officially changed its name in 1565, when Cosimo moved to Palazzo Pitti and called his former residence Palazzo Vecchio.  

The building acquired new importance between 1865 and 1871, that is when it became the seat of the Chamber of Deputies of the Kingdom of Italy with its capital, Florence. Later, between the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century, several restoration works were carried out to bring the palace back to its original splendor.  

Currently, most of the building is used as a museum, but still remains an undisputed symbol of the city, considering that it continues to host the headquarters of the City of Florence, the mayor and the city council.


What to see in Florence 

Being in Florence and visiting only Palazzo Vecchio has, of course, no sense; if you have the opportunity to stay at least for a whole day, it is a must to visit the city and enjoy its beauty, discovering other places rich in history, culture and tradition. Here are the main ones: 

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore 

The complex of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as Florence Cathedral, allows visitors to admire four attractions in one go: the Cathedral, its dome by Brunelleschi, Giotto’s bell tower and the Baptistery of San Giovanni. 

The advice is to climb to the top of the dome or bell tower to enjoy the beautiful view of the city center. Once back down, art lovers can indulge, certainly stopping at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo: inside there are several works removed from the square and the Cathedral, including the original door of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti taken from the baptistery, the cantories of Donatello and Luca della Robbia and a Pietà by Michelangelo.


Piazza della Signoria  

Completed the visit to the Duomo, along Via Calzaiuoli (the shopping street) you reach Piazza della Signoria, with Palazzo Vecchio in the role of undisputed protagonist.  

Next to it is the beautiful Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air museum with free admission, while nearby you can admire the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati and the famous David by Michelangelo (a copy, however, since the original is on display in the Galleria dell’Accademia).


Ponte Vecchio 

The historic center of Florence is crossed by four bridges, among which the most important is undoubtedly Ponte Vecchio. Its iconic shape has made it famous all over the world, as well as one of the undisputed symbols of the city. Along it you will come across many shops and jewellers, while in the center there is a large space where you can stop to take some pictures. 

Ponte Vecchio, moreover, is surmounted by an unmissable attraction: it is the Vasari Corridor, wanted by Cosimo de’ Medici and built by Giorgio Vasari to connect Palazzo Vecchio (political and administrative center) with Palazzo Pitti (private residence of the noble family).


Piazza Santa Croce  

In Florence, Piazza di Santa Croce is a real institution: it consists of one of the most popular squares by the Florentines, especially because every year, in June, a sandy field is set up to play the highly anticipated Florentine football tournament (or football in costume); This is a sporting event that sees the four districts of the historic center compete with each other in direct elimination competitions. The final is held on June 24, on the occasion of the Feast of St John.  

The square, in any case, is a must on other days of the year; the presence of the Basilica of Santa Croce is already a valid reason to visit, along with the statue of Dante. On the occasion of Christmas, then, it becomes the seat of the typical local market, suggestive and exciting.


Uffizi Gallery  

Another unmissable stop in Florence is the Uffizi Gallery, the Florentine museum with the highest attendance and among the most famous museums in the world. Inside you can admire real masterpieces of art, such as the Birth of Venus and the Spring by Sandro Botticelli, the Tondo Doni by Michelangelo, the double portrait of the dukes of Urbino by Piero della Francesca, the Majesty of All Saints by Giotto, The Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci and the Venus of Urbino by Tiziano Vecellio. 

Visiting the gallery can also take away the whole day but, if you prefer, you can take a “quick” tour and then admire Florence from the beautiful panorama that you can see in some parts of the gallery itself.


Galleria dell’Accademia  

The Accademia Gallery is mainly known because it houses the original statue of Michelangelo’s David; however, inside it you can admire much more: not only six other statues of Michelangelo, but also the world’s largest collection of paintings in gold background and many other priceless ancient works. 

The entire gallery consists of 12 rooms, among which stands out the Sala del Colosso, where you can admire over 100 works, including the original plaster sketch of the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna


Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum  

Among the most illustrious citizens that the city of Florence has been able to boast over the course of its history is obviously Leonardo da Vinci; and two museums have been dedicated to him, one of which is the Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum. It consists of a totally interactive museum, which allows visitors to live an original experience, learning to know and use the machines designed by the artist.  

In addition, ample space is dedicated to his most famous works, such as the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper and the Lady with the ermine; this allows you to contemplate beautiful masterpieces up close, thus being able to grasp even the most hidden details.


Basilica of Santa Maria Novella 

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is located on the homonymous square and, once off the train, is the first attraction to welcome visitors with its extraordinary marble facade, among the most important works of the Florentine Renaissance. 

The rest of the square houses cafes and outdoor restaurants, a beautiful flower bed and the Spedale delle Leopoldine, whose 15 rooms now house the Museo Novecento entirely dedicated to 20th century Italian art.


Palazzo Pitti  

The former private residence of the Medici family, Palazzo Pitti, has been located on the square of the same name since 1458, when it was built as the residence of the banker Luca Pitti. The Medici bought it about a century later, and then it was donated to the Italian State in 1919 directly by Vittorio Emanuele III.  

From the moment of the gift onwards, Palazzo Pitti has been transformed into a state museum, which houses the famous Palatine Gallery, full of wonderful works dating from the seventeenth century, the Royal Apartments, the Apartment of the Tapestries, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Porcelain Museum, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Museum of Fashion and Costume and the Carriage Museum.


Giardino di Boboli  

Born as a private garden of Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens is one of the most envied examples of Italian gardens in the world. Today you can visit it at any time, taking the opportunity to admire the statues and sculptures kept inside, as well as its extraordinary architectural setting.  

The garden dates back to the sixteenth century and occupies an area of over 45 thousand square meters; in 2013 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Florence is a must for your next Italian trip.

Copertina: italian

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